Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD

The Medical University of South Carolina has developed a website entitled CPTWeb, funded by the United States Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, that provides free instruction on how to implement cognitive processing therapy for post – traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).

CPT is an empirically supported treatment for this disorder(although it is not the only one) and a number of trials we have discussed in earlier PBB posts have demonstrated its efficacy and effectiveness in treating the disorder.

Here is some basic information about the site:

  • There is no charge for using this program
  • The entire course requires 9 – hours, but clinicians can learn the material at their own pace
  • Patricia Resick, who developed CPT, played an integral role in the development of CPTWeb
  • The material is focused primarily on military populations, however, it should generalize well to civilian clients as well
  • Clinicians who complete the online course can receive 9 contact hours of continuing education from the Medical University of South Carolina
  • Although this course is designed for veterans, its concepts and its approach can be applied to victims of sexual and physical violence

The course consists of a number of modules covering different components of CPT and each module includes:

  • Video introduction to the technique
  • Pre – and post – tests of knowledge of the treatment component
  • Overview of module’s learning objectives
  • Description of the technique of the treatment component
  • Step-by-step instructions for how to implement the technique and sample scripts for introducing the technique to clients
  • Multiple video demonstrations of the technique
  • Suggested practice assignments for clients
  • Discussions of common obstacles to implementing the technique in “real world” practice

The URL for the online course is

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Trauma often causes people to struggle with their memories and thoughts about the event. You may have a hard time making sense of what happened. You may find yourself getting “stuck” in your thoughts about the trauma and how it affects your life. This feeling of being unable to make sense of the trauma can make you want to avoid thinking about or dealing with your memories.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) helps you by giving you a new way to handle these distressing thoughts and to gain an understanding of these events. By using the skills learned in this therapy, you can learn why recovery from traumatic events has been hard for you. CPT helps you learn how going through a trauma changed the way you look at the world, yourself, and others. The way we think and look at things directly affects how we feel and act.

CPT has four main parts:

  1. Learning about PTSD symptoms. CPT begins with education about your specific PTSD symptoms and how the treatment can help. The therapy plan will be reviewed and the reasons for each part of the therapy will be explained. You will be able to ask questions and to know exactly what you are going to be doing in this therapy. You will also learn why these skills may help.
  2. Becoming aware of thoughts and feelings. Next, CPT focuses on helping you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. When bad things happen, we want to make sense of why they happened. An example would be a Veteran who thinks to himself or herself, “I should have known that this would happen.” Sometimes we get stuck on these thoughts. In CPT you will learn how to pay attention to your thoughts about the trauma and how they make you feel. You’ll then be asked to step back and think about how your trauma is affecting you now. This will help you think about your trauma in a different way than you did before. It can be done either by writing or by talking to your therapist about it.
  3. Learning skills. After you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, you will learn skills to help you question or challenge your thoughts. You will do this with the help of worksheets. You will be able to use these skills to decide the way YOU want to think and feel about your trauma. These skills can also help you deal with other problems in your day-to-day life.
  4. Understanding changes in beliefs. Finally, you will learn about the common changes in beliefs that occur after going through trauma. Many people have problems understanding how to live in the world after trauma. Your beliefs about safety, trust, control, self-esteem, other people, and relationships can change after trauma. In CPT you will get to talk about your beliefs in these different areas. You will learn to find a better balance between the beliefs you had before and after your trauma.